Obeying the first rule of shoveling


There are many ways to shovel your car free of snow: Start at the doors, start at the front, throw your snow on the street, throw it on the sidewalk.

But there is only one cardinal sin. Never take somebody's parking spot after they've cleared it.

"That's just rude," said Marc Hauptman, a 39-year-old Southwest Airlines pilot in Canton.

Even though Hauptman drove only a few blocks from his home to go to a Highlandtown grocery store, he still dragged a 10-gallon garbage can into his parking spot as a precaution.

Shoveling mounds of back-breaking snow brings out the territoriality in Baltimore's automobile owners. Like flags declaring a pioneer's conquered land, Baltimoreans will use anything they can find to mark the asphalt their hours of work have uncovered.

Bob Gerber, a co-owner of The Antique Man on Fleet Street, planted a life-size Santa Claus and police officer statue right by his parking spot. Erik Conrad sheepishly dragged an old coffee table wrapped in yellow caution tape to his curbside fiefdom on Clinton Street.

The spot-claiming is practical. History has taught city-dwellers that a spot not marked "mine, mine, mine" will fast become someone else's "find, find, find."

"I think somebody would have a flat tire if they took my parking spot," said Thomas M. Dorsey, who had spent the past two days digging out not just the rectangle in front of his Pimlico home, but the 50 yards from his house to the street.

"We will be putting two chairs out there, definitely," said Dorothy Barcroft of South Baltimore, who walked to her job at Sam's Bagels yesterday. "And there will be some fighting going on, if there has to be."

Even ad hoc entrepreneurs become cutthroat when it comes to shoveling parking spots.

Duane E. Conway, 34, and Chris D. Liggins, 39, who live off Park Heights Avenue near Pimlico, have been charging $20 to clear a parking spot, $75 for a walkway and more than $150 for a full driveway. They have their usual customers - a fact other shovelers need to respect, they said.

"We've got blocks," Liggins said. "Just like cutting grass. Anyone else, we'll run them off the block. You can't just free lance on my block or undercut my price. That's not cool."

It wasn't that way everywhere, however. In many areas, shoveling snow brought out a greater sense of community.

On a narrow, snow-swathed street in Hampden, a jocular band of fed-up home-hostages threw on boots and work gloves, grabbed the nearest shovel and headed outside to do what the city hadn't: clear their impassable street. "I don't expect to see a plow, which is why we're out here," said Marla Kanefsky, 32, who has lived on Hampden's Power Street for two years. "So in order to get back to work, my street needs to be plowed."

Daredevil drivers had packed the snow down in some spots to a little over 6 inches, but for the most part, the 2 feet of snow that fell over Sunday and Monday remained right where it fell - on top of cars, covering curbs and in the middle of the street.

Neighbors on the 800 block of Power St. worked in shifts to clear snow. The older, longtime residents began shoveling Monday. Schoolchildren and newer homeowners took over yesterday. By noon, the street was snow free.

It might have helped that Elana Ehrlich, 25, was inside making pancakes for them as they heaved and heaped.

"And it's a good way to combat cabin fever," said Kate Kritcher, 28.

Even Pimlico's Thomas M. Dorsey - who had earlier threatened to flatten the tires of anyone who stole his space - shoveled out his elderly neighbor's car when he finished clearing his spot.

"It's not everyone for himself," said Dorsey's 21-year-old son, Daniel Allen, who, along with his mother and 13-year-old sister, had been lifting snow all day.

In Columbia, Warren Armstrong and Steve Schaaf didn't intend to clear their entire street when they began digging a berth wide enough for their cars to get through. After all, MacGill Avenue is several football fields long.

But once the two men started, they didn't stop. Four hours later, Armstrong, Schaaf and about 20 neighbors using snowblowers and shovels had cleared the street.

Yesterday, most of the 10,000 block of Robinson St. in Canton was still blanketed in snow. After two days of shoveling, Vi Karavedas and several of her neighbors had cleared a 30-foot stretch of the road, which is several hundred feet long.

"We're exhausted, and we're sore, but we don't have any other choice," Karavedas said.

Aching backs and tingling toes aside, many said the goal of digging out cars and snow-covered streets had brought together people who normally just smile and nod to each other.

"I barely knew any of my neighbors," said Tracy Burchett of Canton's O'Donnell Street.

On Monday, Burchett and seven other residents worked to clear snow from their cars, then relaxed in a hot tub afterward. They were planning to share a meal yesterday after they finished unearthing their cars.

"At least something good came of this storm," Burchett said.

Sun staff writers Lisa Goldberg, Stephanie Hanes, Rona Kobell and Jason Song contributed to this article.

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